You know it is official when the most respected ‘regulatory’ body on earth agrees that video game addiction is a menace. The World Health Organization upset the moods of many video game fans by recognizing gaming as a disorder that can be diagnosed. This reaffirms the fears and skepticism many parents already have about video games in general.
WHO’s decision to include the video game addiction in its 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), ruffled up many feathers, and not just among the video game community.
Psychiatrists and psychologists alike are challenging their decision because there isn’t enough research out there to make such a claim.
The American Psychological Association estimates that half of all American adults play video games, putting the number down to a staggering 160 million. The percentage of people who qualify for the disorder, however, is extremely small. It should be noted that there is no discrepancy between either gender, and male to female ratios are roughly similar.
A 2017 study that comprised of 19000 gamers from the US, UK, Canada, and Germany found that only 2.4% of the sample believed their symptoms needed to be ‘diagnosed.’ A large 65% of participants did not report any signs of gaming disorder.
The WHO has been criticized for singling out gaming disorders as a proposed category, when other activities could be classified just the same, including working, watching movies and even eating.
The WHO’s official definition of gaming disorder includes the following points:
- Incessant video game activity for the past 12 months
Video games take priority over everything else, including daily activities, interests, job, studies and personal life.
- Negative consequences don’t serve as a deterrent and gaming continue to dominate the person’s life. This means that student could end up playing video games instead of doing their homework or procrastinating instead of studying for a test.
Experts are divided about restricting the definition of video game addiction to these three terms, citing lack of research in this area. The Society for Media Psychology and Technology argues that while video game addition research has been studied intensively for the past 30 years, scientists are still clueless on where to draw the line, how to identify symptoms, and if the ‘disorder’ is independent or a symptom of something else.
It isn’t the first time that regulatory bodies tried to classify video games as a disorder, the American Psychological Association proposed its solution, although it isn’t official yet, including the following symptoms:
- An intense focus on internet gaming
- Withdrawal symptoms when video games are taken away
- The need to increase time spent playing video games
- Continuing to play despite consequences
- Lying about their activities to family members and friends
- Using gaming to relieve negative moods such as depression and hopelessness.
The European Games Developer Federation didn’t approve of WHO’s radical stance either and criticized the organization in a public statement, “We are concerned to see gaming disorder contained in the latest iteration of WHO’s ICD-11. The evidence is highly contested and inconclusive. We hope WHO will reconsider their decision.”